The health, economic and social effects of COVID-19 in Africa and around the world have been unprecedented. In this series, young Africans on the continent and in the diaspora share their views on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How are young people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
This crisis affects everyone, but young people will be particularly affected given the pressure on job creation that we expect to see in the aftermath. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that around 1.3 billion young people in the world are between the ages of 15 and 24. Although 41% of the youth population is in the labor force, nearly 68 million are seeking and available for income-generating activities. employment opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 is likely to double that number, leading to youth underemployment, possible erosion of decent and fair work and job losses, particularly in Africa. Many young people are involved in the labor economy and one thing we have seen is the absence of social safety nets in this sector of activity.
What role can young people play in prevention, response and transformation in the fight against COVID-19 in Africa?
Young people in Africa are already leading the fight against COVID-19. They demonstrate their commitment to community development initiatives by launching awareness campaigns, serving on the frontlines as health workers in various countries, and advancing research and innovation by developing community-specific online applications. COVID-19. They are also participating in online discussions to find solutions to end this pandemic. They play an important advocacy role. Just look at the recently released statement from the United Nations Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development (UN IANYD) on COVID-19 and youth.
How can we strengthen innovative communication tools between institutions and the local community, online and offline, to help fight COVID-19?
African countries are adopting innovative ways to communicate with their citizens at institutional and community levels. In The Gambia for example, we are seeing more and more public-private partnerships with private research institutes developing information and communication portals to share real-time data on COVID19 cases and infections.
Using the creative industries, the Gambia office of the International Trade Center (ITC) through its EU-funded Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) has also partnered with Poetry Café and Writers Associations from The Gambia for a poetry challenge to raise awareness about COVID-19. pandemic. This is done through poetry broadcast on national radio and television. Other communication tools include music videos, publication of materials in local languages and billboards are also used to raise awareness.
What lessons and best practices can African countries learn from each other and from the Ebola response to help slow the spread of COVID-19?
Many lessons are emerging from African countries during this pandemic. For example, researchers in Senegal are using their experience with AIDS and Ebola to develop a coronavirus diagnostic kit capable of generating results within 10 minutes of performing the test. These researchers are doing what most countries, even developed ones, are unable to do by testing everyone whether they have symptoms or not in order to quickly identify and isolate infected patients.
Other countries in Africa, such as Senegal, are also taking advantage of digital technologies such as 3D printing to develop ventilator substitutes that cost far less than average ventilators that can cost upwards of $16,000, and others are making 3D-printed face shields for prevention purposes.
Rwanda also presents a good example of its COVID-19 emergency response project by also leveraging digital solutions and data analysis tools that will improve the management and containment of COVID-19. Building on the country’s strong experience in digital solutions, several innovations will be explored, including digital maps that visualize the spread of the disease in real time; mobile applications for sending health messages; and the ability for telemedicine to allow assessment of suspected cases without requiring patients to physically move. This should be extended to the whole continent.
How has your country responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
So far, my country (The Gambia) is adopting public-private partnership models to fight this global pandemic. In partnership with the unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Ministry of Health is carrying out tests in various health centers and calling on citizens to take the opportunity to get tested regardless of symptoms.
In addition, the government’s health risk communication team worked with the National Youth Council to engage in community engagement ahead of the mass collection of COVID-19 samples from various communities.
Discussions are also underway in parliament to explore various social safety nets, including recommendations to increase the COVID-19 response envelope from GMD 500 million to GMD 1 billion Gambian Dalasi to support vulnerable groups, support the private sector and maintain jobs through a cash injection program accompanied by fiscal measures. and customs measures.
Other efforts are also being made to preserve the country’s macroeconomic and financial stability. With support from the IMF, The Gambia is benefiting from $21.3 million under the Rapid Credit Facility as well as debt service relief from the IMF under the Containment and Relief Fund. disaster. All of these are geared towards the urgent need to stabilize the balance of payments resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Bank has also provided grants for the purchase of medical equipment and the strengthening of health infrastructure to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus in The Gambia.